NBC’s Olympics coverage is getting gamified. As Twitch continues to make inroads into live sports, the Amazon-owned streaming platform is partnering with the longtime Olympics broadcaster to produce and deliver interactive live content and shows surrounding this summer’s Tokyo Games on a new NBC Olympics Twitch channel.
The two parties will collaborate to create original programming tailored to the Twitch community throughout the 2021 Games, including highlight studio shows, Olympic athlete interviews and, true to Twitch’s gaming roots, gamified pre-Olympic activations and themed gaming competitions.
“The way that people consume traditional sporting events is changing,” Michael Aragon, chief content officer at Twitch, said in a statement. “They no longer want to simply spectate; they want to be as close to the action and athletes as possible.… The Olympics present an opportunity for a global fan base to embrace this new world of live and interactive sports.”
Throughout the 17 days of the Games, the new channel will also host Twitch-produced content directly from Tokyo, featuring both the platform’s own talent and NBC’s Olympics hosts. A daily live studio show headlines the programming, which also includes primetime sidecasting. Twitch creators (popular streamers on the platform) will comment live during NBC’s primetime block on an interactive companion broadcast that encourages co-viewing of the linear broadcast, a move that will in theory try to steer younger consumers—who make up a large segment of Twitch’s users and audience—back to traditional television.
NBC Olympics and Twitch will collaborate on the sales process for the new channel, which creates additional Olympics ad inventory and gives advertisers access to a different audience demographic than NBC’s core coverage. Financial details regarding potential ad splits or revenue sharing were not disclosed.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with Twitch on innovative ways to tell the stories of Team USA’s athletes in Tokyo and build Olympic excitement with their audience,” said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Sports’ Olympics division. “The Olympic Games are perfectly aligned with Twitch consumers, who are passionate about great competition, personality and storytelling.”
Twitch will also deliver interactive, virtual experiences alongside NBC to engage the streaming audience in advance of the Games. The first of such initiatives gamifies the lighting of the Olympic Torch for viewers of the torch streams, for example. In the week before the Opening Ceremony, Twitch creators and their communities will work together to “keep the Torch alive” on the NBC Olympics Twitch channel by collecting items and participating in chats to fan the flame. Twitch users will eventually “Light the Cauldron”—virtually, of course—as the actual lighting also happens in Tokyo. A virtual pre-Opening Ceremony party and a closing celebration are also part of the plans.
NBCUniversal owns the U.S. media rights to all Olympic Games on all platforms through 2032. The Twitch partnership could serve as a blueprint for how the network can expand its Olympics coverage and programming moving forward—both at the Games and throughout the year—in a way that reaches a digital audience.
(This story has been updated in the fifth paragraph to clarify the ad sales responsibilities of NBC and Twitch.)